Kansas City barbecue-flavored mushroom chips, Morrocan squash and sweet potato curry baby food, popcorn-style popped lotus seeds in coconut or mango-habenero flavors, spring water infused with leftover chardonnay and cabernet skins…These are a few of the exotic new items that might be coming to specialty food stores around America this year.
Every year at the three-day Summer Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center in New York City (there’s also a winter edition, held in San Francisco), which wrapped up on Tuesday, food companies from around the world showcase new products they hope will find a prominent place in the U.S. marketplace. Some 2,400 exhibitors participated this year.
Specialty foods are big business. The market grew 9.8% between 2016 and 2018, to what is now a $148.7 billion industry. “Diverse consumer lifestyles are taking specialty foods mainstream,” said Phil Kafarakis, president of the Specialty Food Association, which stages the show, in a statement.
In a report on this year’s summer show published by Food Business News, reporter Monica Watrous noted that the categories with the highest dollar growth included “refrigerated and frozen plant-based meat alternatives, rice cakes, ready-to-drink coffee and tea and water… [and] frozen desserts…fueled by reduced-sugar, premium and plant-based options.” The era of bacon-flavored foods the world doesn’t need might finally be over.
Elsewhere at the show, South Mill Champs presented beef and turkey jerky blended with mushrooms, while MudLrk’s line of Shiitake Mushroom Chips was shown in ranch, Kansas City barbecue sauce, and sriracha flavors.
Baby food went adventurous: Lil’Gourmets displayed options made of puréed Morrocan squash, ginger beets, and sweet potato curry; Little Pickins had chicken with goat cheese and turkey with Thai vegetables; Kekoa Foods showed organic baby food pouches containing mixes of apple and ginger and carrots and burdock root, among other things.
In the beverage category, besides wine-skin-infused waters, there were soft drinks flavored with juniper lime with chamomile and elderflower; turmeric honeybush with orange peel and black pepper; and pink peppercorn with lemon.
It’s uncertain how many of these new products will find success, but as Kafarkis said in his statement, food merchants are embracing them “[t]o reach…consumers and increase their own sales.”
Among the new offerings at this year’s show singled out by the report were: pizzas topped with broccoli leaves and bell peppers; a tomato sauce that includes not only tomatoes but carrots, bell peppers, sweet potato, butternut squash, beets, and other vegetables; and pickles brined with gin, rosemary, and jalapeños. There was also a grain-free granola made with sweet potatoes, parsnips, and carrots toasted in maple syrup — an innovation which should be of interest to those who realize that conventional granola is one of those foods you only think are healthy.